photos by Charlie McDonald (email@example.com)
by Mike Finnerty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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In what was expected to be a rain-soaked Saturday night for the inaugural All-City Football Classic, the weather Gods cooperated and the game was a competitive and defensive battle throughout.
With Del Oro High School in Loomis as the host of this first ever Sacramento area small school (Division IV-VI) all-star game, scoring was certainly at a premium.
However, when South running back D'juan Bellaire (Center) found the end zone on a four-yard run in the third quarter, his second touchdown of the night, that would prove to be the game-winner in the South's 16-12 victory over the North.
"Bellaire is the real deal," said South head coach Drew Rickert of Bradshaw Christian. "That kid's motor never stops. You saw him get hit a few times, keep going, had some great runs."
Most of the game's scoring plays came on the ground, starting in the second quarter when the North's Michael Robinson (Placer) pounded his way in for a two-yard touchdow that put the North on the board first at 6-0.
Bellaire (68 yards) put the South on top with a 13-yard touchdown, that was followed by Quinton Kirk's run for a two-point conversion, sending the South to the break up 8-6.
The North regained the lead in the third when quarterback Dillon Smith of Bear River (82 yards) delivered a perfect pass down the middle of the field to Deion Blakley of Lindhurst, resulting in a 30-yard touchdown and a 12-8 advantage for the North.
With defense controlling the majority of the game for both teams, the standout performer on the night was South defensive lineman Joe Vitoria of Galt. The 6'5", 255-pound Vitoria, also a Nevada recruit, was a tackle machine the entire game which led to his selection as South MVP.
"I was glad I got it, I was surprised," said Vitoria of his MVP honors. "We came together as a group this week and we just put it together, we just came out and delivered."
South linebacker Preston Dobbins of Center was another player who made a big impact on the game defensively.
"We just came together, clicked, worked together, and everybody had the same goal and we wanted to win. We worked our butts off, came out here and everybody was flying to the ball."
Said Kirk, who scored on both of the South's two-point conversions,"We definitely had to come together as a team. Coach kept on saying 'don't be selfish' and just run the ball around, just focus on our jobs, and execute on every play."
Smith was tabbed as the North MVP passing for 82 yards and a touchdown while sharing time with Foresthill's Tommy Sawyer, but it was Smith's passing and running that stood out.
"I've always wanted to get something like this. Me and my dad have talked about this since I was little. I've always wanted to make an all-star football game, I finally did, and to come out with an MVP award is even better, it meant a lot."
The All-City Football Classic featured players from over 27 schools in the Division IV-IV ranks.
Bear River co-head coaches Scott Savoie and Terry Logue led the way for the North, and were joined by Ron Barney of Mesa Verde.
As head coach for the South, Rickert was thrilled with the game and the opportunity.
"I thought it was awesome," said Rickert. "I would love to do it year in and year out.